Palatki Heritage Site
Palatki means “red house” in the Hopi language, but this ruin actually housed many different cultures among them archaic people from 3000-6000 years ago, the Sinagua, the Yavapai, and Apache nations. Here you will find one of the finest and most extensive collections of rock art in the area. The park rangers are very well-informed and you’ll get more of an education here than in any of the other sites I’ve visited to date.
One trail leads to a set of well-preserved and somewhat restored ruins in the cliffside. Here the rangers will show you the remains of roasted agave that have been chewed, spit out, and preserved, along with other fragments of ancient life. The ruins are picturesque and make a wonderful subject for photos.
Follow another trail and you will walk past several alcoves where you can see numerous examples of rock art from the various cultures, all done in different colors and with different materials.
Palatki feels mystical. A shaman/friend of mine tells me that there is a “doorway” in the rocks near the end of the trail. I find the spot, where a large vertical, rectangular slab of rock leans away from the cliff, and as I am basking in the huge heart energy there, a young local man tells me that the Native American elders believe this is where the spirits of the mountain journey between their world and ours.
He also tells me that a pool forms under the first alcove when it rains, reflecting the rock art. Animals come here to drink before it evaporates, and sometimes the grandmothers will come here to wash their hair in this special pool. No matter what you believe, Palatki is something you don’t want to miss if you’re seeking an experience of ancient cultures in the area.
From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Hwy 179 (exit 298). Turn left onto 179 and follow it past the Village of Oak Creek to the Sedona (Burger King) “Y”. Turn left at the “Y” onto West 89A. Take this past most of the town until you see Dry Creek Road. This is just a little ways past the Giant Gas Station to the right.
Take Dry Creek Road until it dead-ends into another road. Turn left; the signs will point you to the Enchantment Resort. Take this road until it dead-ends into another road. Turn left onto the dirt road (Boynton Pass Road) and follow it for several miles until you see the signs pointing to Honanki. Follow them past the Loy Butte area, past the cattle guard/gate, through the dry wash and then up on the hill where you will see a dirt parking lot to the left and a little hut to the right. The very short trail is to the right.
PS – Boynton Pass Road can be a rutty, bumpy dirt road that is OK for cars in dry weather, but don’t try it in a heavy rain… speaking from experience!
Things to bring:
Bring a camera and water in the summer.
Check with the National Park Service for fee information before your trip.